Skip to main content

NC State Extension

What Are Local Food Systems

On This Page

Program Overview

What Are Local Food Systems

Local Food Research

State Organizations & Listservs


Program Overview

In 2012 Local Foods was named as N.C. Cooperative Extension’s first Flagship Program. The Local Foods Program is a collaborative program of The Cooperative Extension Program of North Carolina A&T State University and the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service of North Carolina State University.

The Extension Local Food Program partners with many university and community partners across the state and nation to build capacity for local food systems. Learn more about our staff.

Each county Cooperative Extension office and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) has a designated Local Food Coordinator. To contact your area Local Food Coordinator, click on your county name or the EBCI from the County Centers website, and then click on the ‘Local Foods‘ link listed under Agriculture & Food on the left-hand sidebar of the county Extension web page.

The Local Food Program Team brings together county agents and campus specialists to create training and resources to build capacity for supporting local food systems in Extension across the state.

Stay in touch! There are a number of ways to stay in touch with the Extension Local Food Program:


What are Local Food Systems?

Though there is no generally agreed upon definition for ‘local’ food or ‘local food systems’ (Martinez, et al, 2010), the language of local food systems generally refers to the geographic context in which food is produced, marketed, and consumed and all other intermediary supply chain steps taking food from farm to table. Additionally, localized food systems are place-specific and seek to embed the production, distribution, and consumption of foods in community relationships. Farms, from large to small and from conventional to certified organic, are finding opportunities to engage in the local foods market opportunities across the supply chain in the state.

The US Department of Agriculture has linked local foods to many of its key priorities such as food access and nutrition, enhancing rural economies, the environment, addressing consumer demand, and improving profitability of agricultural producers and strengthening markets. The USDA recognizes that consumer demand for local foods has been growing in recent years and that federal, state and local policies are responding. A recent congressional mandated report states, “Producer participation in local food systems is growing, and the value of local food sales, defined as the sale of food for human consumption through both direct-to-consumer (e.g., farmers’ markets) and intermediated marketing channels (e.g., sales to institutions or regional distributors), appears to be increasing.”  (Low et al 2015)

Practically, many local food system efforts in North Carolina also include a focus on nutrition and health or community development, from community and school gardening to economic development to food justice. Therefore, beyond the supply chain, support for local and community-based food systems is far reaching and far ranging. This web portal is intended to share the breadth of the field of work and research, and also to provide connections to resources and information to those working to support developing local food systems.

Citations

Low, Sarah A., Aaron Adalja, Elizabeth Beaulieu, Nigel Key, Steve Martinez, Alex Melton, Agnes Perez, Katherine Ralston, Hayden Stewart, Shellye Suttles, Stephen Vogel, and Becca B.R. Jablonski. Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems, AP-068, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, January 2015. 

Martinez, Steve, et al. (2010). Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues, ERR-97, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. 


Local Food Research

We compile current research and annotated bibliographies related to local food to provide the best information to practitioners across the state.


State Organizations & Listservs

  • State Organizations, Partners, and University Departments and Centers
  • North Carolina Local Food-related Listservs
    • foodpolicycouncils – A statewide listserv, managed by Community Food Strategies, to connect those interested in farm and food policy and food councils. Sign up here.
    • growingsmall farms – Discussion/support group for small farmers in NC. To request addition to the list send your request to debbie_roos@ncsu.edu.
    • local-foods-action-plan – A statewide listserv to facilitate a local food economy and promote all aspects of local foods. Instructions for joining this listserv are here.
    • ncchoices – A moderated listserv sharing educational and marketing opportunities for farmers raising pasture-based animals, especially those that involve local marketing of meats to consumers and wholesale buyers. Instructions for joining this listserv are here.
    • nccommunitygarden – Connects those interested in community gardening in North Carolina. Sign up here.
    • nc-farmers-market – Listserv developed to facilitate communications among individuals interested in farmers’ markets. To request addition to the list send your request to agpolk@ncsu.edu.
    • NC Farm to School Coalition – A statewide listserv to facilitate shared ideas and resources on any topic related to Farm to School. Instructions for joining this listserv are here.
    • newfarmtrainerSE – Connects those who provide training and/or technical assistance to new and beginning farmers in North Carolina and across the southeast US. Sign up here.
    • pasturedpoultry  – A listserv for producers and others interested in pastured poultry.  To request addition to the list send your request to debbie_roos@ncsu.edu.

Note: The use of brand names in this web portal does not imply endorsement by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service of the products or services named nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned.